Updated: Seven cases of COVID-19 at Western Nunavut gold mine confirmed
“These latest cases lead us to believe there is transmission of COVID-19 at the Hope Bay mine”
Updated on Sept. 29, at 8:40 a.m.
TMAC Resources Inc. has confirmed that the seven presumptive cases of COVID-19 at its Hope Bay mine site have been shown to be positive.
Yesterday, the Government of Nunavut announced that the Hope Bay gold mine in western Nunavut had seven new presumptive cases of COVID-19.
“These latest cases lead us to believe there is transmission of COVID-19 at the Hope Bay mine,” said Nunavut’s chief public health officer, Dr. Michael Patterson, in a news release issued yesterday.
The government says it had deployed its rapid response team to the mine site.
“The team, including two nurses and a logistician, is trained to trace, track and contain the virus to help reduce the risk of further transmission,” said Patterson.
The owners of the mine, TMAC Resources Inc., contacted the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer on Sept. 26 about an employee who was developing symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
The Department of Health then worked with on-site medical staff to swab the symptomatic employee and contacts.
These seven cases will count as Nunavut’s first COVID-19 cases. Previous cases at the territory’s mines didn’t count as such, because they came from southern Canada.
The Hope Bay mine was the site of two confirmed cases declared on Sept. 19.
At the time, Patterson, said there was “no evidence of transmission within the Hope Bay site.”
The Nunavut government says there is “no established link” between those previous cases and the current ones.
It says all presumptive positive cases, and any of their known contacts, have been isolated at the mine site, and contact tracing is ongoing.
All non-essential travel to and from the mine, including scheduled shift changes, is cancelled until further notice.
The presumptive COVID-19 cases did not affect the current public health measures, Nunavut’s Path or the Common Travel Areas with Churchill, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories, the government said yesterday.
“Although this is a serious situation, the risk to Nunavummiut is very low,” Nunavut’s health minister, George Hickes, said in the news release.
“There are no Nunavut residents currently working at the Hope Bay Mine, and the site is isolated from all Nunavut communities. As we see cases on the rise in southern Canada, I encourage all Nunavummiut to be careful, follow our public health advice and remain prepared for COVID-19.”
In late July, TMAC boosted its pandemic prevention efforts by instituting pre-flight rapid COVID-19 testing at Edmonton for all inbound southern workers, Alex Buchan, TMAC’s vice-president for corporate social responsibility, told Nunatsiaq News.
Anyone who believes they have been exposed to COVID-19 is advised to call the COVID-19 hotline at 1-888-975-8601 between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. eastern time or notify their community health centre right away by phone, and immediately self-isolate at home for 14 days, the government said.
Symptoms of COVID-19 include a fever, cough or difficulty breathing.
The best protection from spreading or catching the disease is physical distancing, hand washing for at least 20 seconds, coughing and sneezing into an elbow, and staying home as much as possible, the government said.